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Draft Profile: Zhaire Smith

Zhaire Smith hasn’t been linked with the Hornets much in mock drafts. Here’s why that should change.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Villanova vs Texas Tech Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Zhaire Smith is one of the most interesting players in this year’s NBA draft. His athleticism and explosiveness are what makes him the player that he is. Smith has all-world upside, and to get him with the 11th overall pick would be a great value.

Zhaire Smith has been a riser over the past couple of months on many draft boards. A lot of Hornets fans haven’t really even heard of him. However, due to this rise, Smith is now considered a lottery prospect by many major sports outlets.

I was not that high on Zhaire Smith originally. In fact, I thought people who had Smith mocked to the Hornets were completely insane. Then I started to look at the tape.

Within a few minutes of watching almost any Texas Tech game, you start to recognize the most promising trait in Zhaire Smith’s game, which is his athleticism. In the clip above, notice just how far off of the ground Zhaire Smith gets. It’s easy to get carried away with a player’s raw athletic ability but there is certainly much more to like about Zhaire Smith.

In this clip, you can see Smith’s jump shot up close. Smith was relatively efficient beyond the line in college. According to the Stepien, Smith shot 52% from the NBA 3-point line. Take that with a grain of salt, however, because Smith only attempted 19 3-pointers over the course of his lone season at Texas Tech.

Here we go again. Zhaire Smith is a hound on defense. His length and athleticism allow him to guard positions one through three with relative ease. In the play above, he contains his man on the perimeter and forces him to pass the ball into the low post. From there, Smith eventually goes on to block the shot, showing his innate ability to detect when he should go into help defense.

Shot selection, defense, basketball IQ, and length are all traits that make Zhaire Smith’s game. He is rare in the fact that he is a very all-around player, and has the makings of a young star. I’m not the only person that thinks this, either. The Stepien, a website that covers the NBA draft, gives Zhaire Smith a 59% chance to become an average NBA starter, along with a 7% chance to become a top-25 player and an 8% chance to become a top-10 player. With the 11th overall pick, I’ll take those odds any day of the week.

The Hornets would be downright lucky to have Zhaire Smith fall into their laps with the 11th overall pick. He does not have many negatives and his positives are overwhelmingly self-convincing that he has the makings of a future NBA starter, if not a star.

He fits in with the Hornets for many reasons. If Kupchak chooses to select the Raider, Smith will likely play a combo-guard role with the ability to play wing as well. It’s probable that the selection of him moves Nicolas Batum to the Small-forward spot, especially since James Borrego stated that he would be interested in toying with the lineups. It would also signal Borrego trusts Malik Monk as a backup point-guard, and might even hint that the Hornets are preparing to move on from Kemba Walker as a whole.

It’s likely you have not seen Smith mocked to the Hornets often, or possibly even at all. However, I think it’s time that selection becomes more prevalent in mock drafts, as he would be a perfect fit for the Hornets for both the short and long term.


Would you select Zhaire Smith with the 11th overall pick?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    (86 votes)
  • 42%
    Probably, it depends on who is available.
    (114 votes)
  • 15%
    Probably not, but I’d consider it if most top players are gone.
    (43 votes)
  • 10%
    (27 votes)
270 votes total Vote Now